After camping most of our way through Kauai and Oahu I wanted to share with you all about our trip! Camping was definitely an amazing way to see the islands, it was also a heck of a lot cheaper than staying in Air BnB’s or hotels!
We chose to stay in Kauai Palms Hotel on the first and last night in Kauai, after such a long flight to get there with no sleep it was so great to reset. The last night it was great to have a proper hot shower and do some laundry! They have a laundry room on site that costs approx $1 for a wash and use of the dryer was free.
From my understanding you can camp in a privately owned campground, a State Park campground or a County campground. The County campgrounds are the cheapest option and seem to have the worst reviews when it comes to safety. We chose to stay in a State Park campground in Kauai and a privately managed campground in Oahu. To book a State Park campground you need to do so through their online portal, we wanted to camp at Polihale beach campground or Koke’e, we ended up choosing Koke’e because it was right where all of the hikes were. But if you’re looking to do more beach camping, look into Polihale! We drove out to the campsites to see what they were like and it was an absolutely beautiful spot, just keep in mind that there are no shops nearby!
WHERE WE STAYED -
Koke’e State Park is a beautiful lush forest with access to roughly 72kms of the areas best hiking trails. There is a museum and lodge right next to the campgrounds, so if camping isn’t your thing but you’d like to be close to all of the hikes, I’d look into renting one of the cabins. The museum sells detailed maps which we found so handy to navigate around the whole island. The Lodge is so great to have close by, its situated right next to the museum and is open from 9am until 4pm. We would wake up early to do a hike and then head to the Lodge mid morning to have breakfast and a coffee (their coffee was AMAZING!) then head off on another hike or into town. The campgrounds are very basic, there is no power but there is running water that is safe to drink. The toilet block has a flushing toilet and a shower which only has cold water, and because you’re so high up in the mountains it is FREEZING cold water! We ended up showering at some of the beach showers before we went back up the mountain, even though they’re cold water too, it’s not icy cold! To book these campgrounds you can click on this link or to book cabins click here - the cabins did look super cute but they book out quickly!
Side note - there is no phone reception up in the State Park nor anywhere that has WiFi. If you head back down the mountain into Waimea there is a visitors information centre, they have free WiFi and the woman working there is really helpful.
WHERE WE ATE -
Island Taco - The BEST shrimp tacos ever!!
Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice - These were amazing! All homemade syrups and cream and also the most delish macadamia nut ice cream! All of their profits go towards funding free camping for Hawaiian youth.
Wranglers Steak House - We had dinner here once and it was so good! We each had a flame grill steak with all you can eat salad and soups, the unsweetened ice tea is great here too!
There’s also a fruit shop on the main street in Waimea that is painted yellow, there’s buckets of coconuts out the front! Stop here for a chilled coconut to drink, you can also pay $1 for them to remove the coconut flesh after you’ve finished drinking.
Koke’e Lodge - They had a great assortment of meals to pick from, and a coffee and smoothie bar - perfect for breakfast or lunch when you’re staying up in the State Park!
WHAT WE DID -
Awa’awapuhi Trail - This is a continual downhill hike from the trail head to the beautiful clearing overlooking the coastline. It is approx 5kms each way that leads you through a rainforest for majority of the way, the outlook is absolutely breathtaking and worth the long walk through the forest! You can back track (we did) or take the Nualolo Cliff Trail Junction on your way out, it will add 8kms to your trip and you will have to walk a fair way on the road to get back to your car. We heard that it was a worthwhile detour but we had been on a boat tour the day before and were pretty sore and tired - and it’s a big uphill hike on the way back!
Waipo’o Falls - This waterfall is stunning and you’re able to see it from across the valley at a lot of lookouts, the hike to the top of the waterfall will not disappoint! You begin hiking through a bit of forest until you hit the canyons rim, this was one of my favourite parts, everything seems so large and the views of the canyon are spectacular! The trail continues until you reach the top of the first waterfall (approx 250 metres high!) You can stand underneath the falls and cool off a bit. If you continue around the bend you will find another small waterfall which is the perfect spot for a swim.
Pihea Trail Head - This was one of my absolute favourite hikes. It begins at the Pu’u o Kila overlook (the end of highway 550) it is best to start this hike early as clouds can cover a lot of your views, we were very lucky and had a beautiful clear day! The entire hike gives you views of the Kalalau valley below and coastline, I can’ t begin to explain how beautiful this hike was so i’ll let the photos do the talking!
Blue Ocean Adventure Tour - This tour was the whole reason we travelled to Kauai to begin with! I had spotted their beautiful photographs of the Na Pali coastline and that’s why I started researching what to do on the island. I didn’t book our tour until the day we flew out, because it was a little exxy ($500 Australian) I umm’ed and ahh’ed over it and I am SO GLAD we did it! It was the absolute highlight of the entire trip and so worth the money! You meet at the small boat harbour in Waimea and take off in an RIB, an inflatable boat commonly used by Navy Seals. We did the afternoon tour, if you wanted to see more marine life I would do the morning tour. We wanted to watch the sunset and also have time in the morning to find the boat harbour - if I was to go again I would probably go in the morning to hopefully spot some dolphins, also the sea is a lot calmer. It was crazy rough when we went but being us (adrenaline junkies) we absolutely loved it! You have to hold on to ropes as you’re sitting on the side of the boat and the other people on the tour were loving the crazy boat ride too. The team (Jonny & Ross) were absolutely hilarious and made the trip so much fun, we felt completely at ease - these guys are locals and were very experienced! The viewpoints you see on this tour are next level and can only be seen by boat, helicopter or if you hike for DAYS! It is so beautiful and one of the most special memories!
Polihale Beach - This beach is a little bit of a drive from town but so worth it! There are campgrounds here but we wanted to stay away from beach campsites after reading scary reviews - after visiting though it felt quite safe, we also met some Swedish girls that had camped there before coming to Koke’e and they had no dramas. We decided to spend an afternoon down here and it was amazing, the view of the cliffs from the beach make you feel absolutely tiny - we also spotted heaps of mountain goats in crazy positions all through the cliffs! We went for a swim and also had a shower in the camp showers before heading back up into Koke’e.
Waimea Canyon - also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is beautiful and HUGE, approx 1000 metres deep! We would drive up the Canyon to get to our campsite and would stop every day on the side of the road to look at the panoramic views. There are plenty of spots to pull over and go for a little walk to see different things - deep gorges, waterfalls and beautiful valleys. We never got sick of driving through this beautiful area every day!
Wailua Falls - These falls are located very close to the Kauai Palms Hotel, it was the first thing we did when we arrived in Kauai! There is a fence surrounding the trail that leads down to the falls, you need to jump it and take a muddy path down to the bottom, it’s a very short walk down. You can get behind the falls and it’s also a great spot for a swim - remember to take togs so you don’t have to swim in your undies like me haha!
Hanalei Bay - This area is very touristy, we didn’t love it because of how busy it was, but did stop in for lunch. We drove around the North Shore but a lot of the area was closed because of landslides. We ended up finding some quieter beaches in the area and relaxed there instead of the main beach.
Secret Beach - This beach was such a find! It seemed like more of a local beach and we had a little area all to ourselves. On the day we went there were volunteers from Surfrider cleaning up the far end of the beach, so after a few hours of swimming and relaxing under the coconut trees we helped bring heaps of rope off the beach.
We absolutely LOVED Kauai and its laidback beachy vibes! Highlights were the Blue Ocean boat tour, Pihea Trail head and Waipo’o Falls. My favorite place to eat would have to be Island Taco, I ordered shrimp tacos with Cajun seasoning and will dream about these tacos until the day I die! Also Jo Jo’s shave ice was a life saver on hot days, and so delish! Other than the freezing cold showers, I am super happy with our decision to camp in Koke’e, there were plenty of other tourists camping there and we felt very safe, having the Lodge nearby for food and coffee was also a major bonus!
Let me know if you have any questions about our trip!
Happy + safe travels + lots of Aloha!